Margaret River’s Grandeur in a Glass

Margaret River’s Grandeur in a Glass

Having written, this year, about the chardonnay hot spots of the Orange region in New South Wales and the glorious Adelaide Hills in South Australia, I’ve copped a bit of flack from chardy-lovers for neglecting the “best chardonnay region outside of Burgundy”, (so they said) – the Margaret River in the West. And I can assure my pen pals that no slight on “Margs” was intended; I’ve gushed about the quality of the WA chardonnay any number of times in the past. In fact, I think I may once have suggested that their chardonnay might be even better than their cabernet. Now that’s saying something!

Given that chardonnay accounts for over half of all white wine produced in Australia, there are clearly plenty of disciples to the style. And for good reason – I reckon that it’s the most regal of white wine varietals!  So, in that context, I guess it’s to be expected that a few proverbial noses were put out of joint when my previous musings on the grape failed to heap effusive praise on the quality of the Margaret River offering.

Long gone are the flabby and overoaked styles of the 1980s.  You’d remember the ones – the mouth blowing types that had more butter than a Western-Star factory!  These days, Australian chardonnays have found some balance between those examples that Kath and Kim made infamous, and the terribly lean and fruit starved styles that winemakers churned out when the pendulum swung too far in the 1990s. Over in the West, the Margaret River chardies are up there with the world’s best. In fact, blind tastings by good judges have often scored them higher that many grand cru burgundies and the best that California has to offer! Complex, balanced, and elegant, their chardonnay is austere without silencing the fruit.

I’ll use any excuse to taste my way through a bunch of Margaret River chardonnays, and having sampled as many as I could get my chardy-loving hands on, here are five of the best from the current crop that you’ll find on bottle shop shelves.

No 5

Fraser Gallop Estate Wilyabrup Chardonnay 2022

I have to admit that it was surprising to see Huon Hooke recently rate this one so poorly. To my palate, it’s great value at $30. Sure, there are better out there – but they are also much more expensive. Nice fruit, plenty of acid, balanced and great length. It’s not quite the same quality as the Fraser Gallop Parterre Chardonnay, but it’s half the price!

No 4

Forester Estate Chardonnay 2022

If you like a creamy texture and plenty of peach and cashews in your chardy, this one is your jam!  Easy to drink and good value at the $38 ask.

No 3

Xanadu Chardonnay 2022

This is the younger sibling of the widely acclaimed Reserve Chardonnay. Plenty of fleshy nectarine, pear and citrus characters, and the finish is crisp, quartz-like and clean. At $38, it’s ideal for those who prefer a taught and constrained style.

No 2

Vasse Felix Chardonnay Premier 2021

I’ve gone for value again. It’s $44 in most places and could easily sell for more. It’s a complex and well-structured wine which entices with honeydew and sourdough on the nose, stone fruit and lemon curd through the middle, and a dry, steely conclusion. It’s a wild child, that’s for sure!

No 1

Howard Park Allingham Chardonnay 2022

There had to be one super-premium wine on the list and with contenders like the premium wines of Cullen, Pierro, Leeuwin Estate, Moss Wood, Evans and Tate and Stella Bella Suckfizzle, it was never going to be easy to narrow it down but having tried the 2022 release of Howard Park’s Allingham Chardonnay, it just had to be the winner. Priced at $95 or so, it’s not an everyday drinker, but when a little luxury is called for, this opulent wine will be sure to impress. There’s all the usual Margaret River characters of peach, nectarine, honeydew and sourdough, but what captivates is its purity, elegance, grace and style. The balance of bright acidity and oak is breathtaking!

So, is the Margaret River the best chardonnay producing region outside Burgundy? Maybe. But if you try the 2022 Allingham, I suspect you’ll soon think so!

As published in The Courier Mail.


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